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Owls Hollow Farm
Owls Hollow Farm owner Rod Palmer stands inside Owls Hollow Market, which recently opened in Bluff Park.
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Owls Hollow Farm
Since the founding of Pepper Place Market in 2000, Owls Hollow Farm owner Rod Palmer has harvested the best of the naturally grown fruits and vegetables from his Turkeytown, Alabama, farm, for the Saturday morning shoppers.
Palmer quickly established a base of regular customers, many of whom still support Owls Hollow Market for its natural farming practices.
“Fifteen years ago, I was really proud to grow organically,” he said. “But in many respects, it’s become a meaningless word. The way so much of what is labeled ‘organic’ from other countries is done without any standardization or certification. Produce may carry that label simply because the farmer says it’s organic.”
By contrast, Palmer said organic certification in the United States requires compliance with rigorous government-mandated standards. The combination of stateside agricultural bureaucracy and his concerns about the loosely monitored international practices regarding organic certification left Palmer to abandon the practice completely.
“We are not certified organic because I don’t want the government up my rump any more than it is already,” he said, noting that Owls Hollow Farm does observe some practices approved by OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute, an independent nonprofit. For Palmer, the bottom line is common sense.
“There are a lot of OMRI-approved things that I do not use and that I wouldn’t want to use,” Palmer said. “If something isn’t safe, it doesn’t matter to me if it is ‘approved.’”
Instead, Palmer uses the basics and makes whatever else he needs naturally.
Chicken litter and fish emulsion are to be expected, but maybe not Dawn dishwasher liquid, homemade garlic tea and basil tea.
“We also use natural sprays like pyrethrum, made from the juice of marigolds,” said Palmer’s business partner, Hoover resident Mike Clark.
Prompted by his wife’s sudden onset of severe food allergies, Clark researched the existence of organic farms in the area. That search led him to Pepper Place, where he consistently bought Owls Hollow produce from Palmer week after week.
By 2010, Clark, a quality engineer in the auto industry, left his lifelong career to pursue a healthier lifestyle and partnered with Palmer to help distribute the produce on a broader scale.
In the process, Clark has lost 97 pounds.
“I grew up on a self-sustained farm in Chambers County, so this was really a return to what I knew,” said Clark. “I ate right growing up. Traveling all the time, you eat garbage. But now I am eating right again.”
Clark’s personal experience has made him a natural spokesman for the farm and has been integral in Owls Hollow Farm produce being used in the kitchens of some of Birmingham’s standout restaurants, including Highlands Bar and Grill, Ocean, Bettola, Little Donkey and Eli’s Jerusalem Grill on Highway 280.
In September 2014, Clark and Palmer opened the farm’s first brick-and-mortar storefront. Located at 813 Shades Crest Road, Owls Hollow Farm Market offers shoppers a wide selection of farm fresh produce, along with organic dry goods from Forever Sunrise Organics in Piedmont, Alabama, and handmade soaps from Helena resident Kimberly Ford.
Owls Hollow Farm is also highly visible in the corporate community, where they offer CSA (community supported agriculture) programs at organizations including Protective Life, HealthSouth, EBSCO and many others. In addition, Owls Hollow Farm has partnered with Trussville resident Jennifer Conns of Food Integrated Training Inc., through which they offer Lunch and Learn demos about healthful food prep, all in five minutes or less.